Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Kindle

I'm sure this is old news, but Amazon's site is lauding the new and improved Kindle. It's not really a surprise, since they were mighty quick to drop the Kindle's price on the heels of the iPad's bid for a piece of the ereader pie, and the third generation was being whispered about over the last few months. But it does mean that my parents may well become Kindle owners.

Allegedly the 3G is now truly global wireless, and indeed the coverage map is pretty convincing, although I will be interested to see feedback from users in Canada and Australia. The thing also has smokin' battery life (a month!), and is smaller and lighter than the previous version and packs more storage, all of which make Kindle ownership considerably more attractive. Alas, attractive is definitely in the eye of the beholder, because the look of the thing is relatively unchanged--personally, I don't much care for it, but it's not a substantial complaint. And it comes in black, so if the white one reminded you too much of school computers in the 1980's, your prayers have been answered.

Do I regret my Opus? No. Proprietary format is a real pisser for me--and I don't often find myself wanting ebooks where Amazon is the only or the cheapest option. My major complaint is the number of books I want to read that aren't available in any ebook format (philosophy books are hard to come by, but the ereader will do nothing to round out my steady diet of mysteries, because every mystery you ever wanted is an ebook). And Kobo's app provides a very similar experience to the Kindle app for Android--you can go from complete ignorance of a book's existence to reading it in less than 5 minutes, without a computer. All with the added benefit that I can read it on almost any ereader I want.

But my objections are those of an eensy beensy segment of the population (the ones who chuckled over Shifter's Random Geek Thought). The Kindle is a force to be reckoned with, for sure. I hope they put the new ones in Target so we can get a good look at them. And I can't wait to see the reviews....


Before any of our IR's explore the links, I'll warn you that the stuff you'll find ranges from a nice desert landscape that you could bring home to mom to certain leather accessories that your boss might not want you perusing on company time. Just so's you know.

This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. On my recent trip to Arizona, friends and I went to get henna tattoos at a studio in Phoenix. The place is full of art, but I saw this as soon as I walked in and couldn't stop looking at it. It's this amazing fusion, with the edge of tattoo style and the smiling satire of Mexican/southwestern calavera art. What you may not see immediately is that it is leather, carved and colored by hand. The piece seems a little flat in the photo, partly because the original has such amazing texture. The colors are gorgeous--rich and vibrant. It was a privilege to get an up-close look at it. I love the tattoo details--the swallows, the roses, even the ocean, which reminds me of Japanese tattoos. And the contrast between the living and dead, the color and the black and white, is a favorite theme of mine.

I got to meet the artist, Marco Antonio Turrubiartes, and I'm sure I conveyed my appreciation poorly and with a lot of repetition of the words "cool" and "gorgeous," like someone with an 8th grade education, but he was very gracious. Dude has an etsy shop, and as far as I'm concerned, he's destined for stardom.

Friday, July 30, 2010

If I could draw

If I could draw I'd try a web comic strip about Adam, Eve, and God, only with Adam played by a hacker. I can see a picture of Adam looking out on the Garden of Eden, turning to The Lord, and saying "Meh." I can also see him looking out at the first sunset, turning to Eve, and saying "Nice graphics." I think the possibilities are endless. It's such a good idea, in fact, that I'm worried that it's already been done and that perhaps the only reason I thought of it is that I saw it, years ago, and forgot it but the idea stayed floating around my subconscious until it popped back out now. I don't have the heart to Google it - let me dream that I had an inspiration. It's kind of sad, though, that when you have a good idea you (or at least I) always have to wonder if it was someone else's thought that I snarfed without realizing it.

Random geek thought

I think the reason computer geeks sometimes prefer fantasy to reality is that fantasy is open-source.

And if you get that, you're either a geek or you've been reading too much of T&S.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A bit more on Strange and Norrell

First, several of our dear IR's all of whom happen to be related to me, pointed out that they TOLD me to read MS&DN just years ago and I ignored them. I must accept that this is true. The thing is, I ignored them all the way to the point of forgetting they ever said anything, so now I publically apologize, to all of our other scads of readers, to these others for forgetting to credit them with the recommendation as well.

Second, I am now three discs into it and I think that this is one of the first books that I believe may actually be better on tape than on paper. The narrator is doing such a great job with the inflections, right down to the right tone for the very lengthy and involved footnotes, that I can't imagine reading it anywhere near as well as he is speaking it. Of course, as I've never actually read from print myself, this is speculative claim at best. But I'm making it anyway.

Blogs aren't peer reviewed, isn't that handy :o)

Anti-theft devices and lawnmowers

I went to buy a new lawnmower today. Why, you ask? Because my old lawnmower SUCKS and was increasing my chance of heart attack every time I tried to mow the lawn. And my neighbors were laughing at me. Because I was wanting to kick it. So that's why.

So I did the comparison shopping thing, the talk to the experienced mower guy at the store thing, the budget (or lack there-of - who has a lawn mower budget?) thing, and then went to make the purchase. That went fine, and the check out guy even told me I was buying a nice mower (Toro, $300, for the curious - I bought cheap last time and believe me, I got cheap). Then as I was wheeling it out of the store on my cart, the store's anti-theft system went off. Evidently somewhere in my mower box was an anti-theft device they forgot to turn off.

Now I'm of 2 minds about anti-theft devices. You know, the little magnetic or whatever things that set off alarms if you leave the store before they're turned off? On the one hand, they make sense in principle and I can see a need for them. On the other hand, I can honestly say that I have never been prevented from stealing by an anti-theft device, but I have been inconvenienced while making a purchase by anti-theft devices several times. It's great when you've got a huge cart of groceries and some clerk has to recheck your receipt in case you added an extra box of meaty-o's that you didn't pay for. Be that as it may, after the check-out guy told me to ignore it and I wheeled my mower to the car, I couldn't help but wonder. Who shoplifts a lawnmower? It's a big freaking box people. It weight 81 pounds, and it's about 4 feet long by 2.5 feet wide. It would NOT fit under my trench coat, and I could NOT change into it in the changing room. It seems like telling the check out guy to, say, look out for people wheeling out huge boxes of mowers without paying for them might be almost, almost mind you, as effective as anti-thefting the boxes. Remind me not to try to swipe a new refrigerator next time I'm there. I'm sure they're on to that trick too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reading author blogs...

I've just decided something. A rare occurrence! I have decided that I shouldn't read writer blogs anymore. No Scalzi, or Rothfuss, or Gaiman, or Gerrold, or anyone! Not because the blogs themselves aren't interesting, because they are. No, what gets me are the comments. And not because they're inane (and usually they are). Nope, because somehow reading comments is addictive. Every time I read a blog post I'm drawn to look at the comments. Every damn time. And sometimes there are like HUNDREDS of them. And I read just one, then another, than another, and it keeps going on and on and on and the next thing I know BAM another hour of my life is gone. I don't even know why I do it! What do I have to show for that hour? Less faith in humanity, less sleep than I could have had, and a nagging feeling like I'm just coming out of some waking coma in which I had dreams populated almost entirely by suck-ups or stupid people. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some more blog comments to read.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell

Well, I did it. I finished listening to the ENTIRE Harry Potter series on CD. It was 95% done in my car when driving to and from work, and 5% done on runs (which, as I've said, is a slow thing to do). I really enjoyed it. I had always meant to reread it, and this way I got to while still reading several other books! Driving to work has never been so pleasant.

But now I'm without a book. Or I was! Until I went to our local library and checked out a few new books on CD. The first, and the title of our post today, is Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell. I'm too lazy to type a description of it, but here it is swiped from Amazon:

"It's 1808 and that Corsican upstart Napoleon is battering the English army and navy. Enter Mr. Norrell, a fusty but ambitious scholar from the Yorkshire countryside and the first practical magician in hundreds of years. What better way to demonstrate his revival of British magic than to change the course of the Napoleonic wars? Susanna Clarke's ingenious first novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, has the cleverness and lightness of touch of the Harry Potter series, but is less a fairy tale of good versus evil than a fantastic comedy of manners, complete with elaborate false footnotes, occasional period spellings, and a dense, lively mythology teeming beneath the narrative. Mr. Norrell moves to London to establish his influence in government circles, devising such powerful illusions as an 11-day blockade of French ports by English ships fabricated from rainwater. But however skillful his magic, his vanity provides an Achilles heel, and the differing ambitions of his more glamorous apprentice, Jonathan Strange, threaten to topple all that Mr. Norrell has achieved. A sparkling debut from Susanna Clarke--and it's not all fairy dust. --Regina Marler"

Naturally, I couldn't have said it better myself. The book was recommended to me, indirectly, by Seeker, a regular commentator here at T&S, through my beloved. I popped it in the car today while stuck in traffic and, after listening to 15 minutes, I'm hooked. I love the writing style, the topic, the rich mythology that underlies it all, and the sense of humor that lurks just around the bend. It's a very long book - 28 discs long (so well over 1700 minutes or close to 30 hours) - but I'm really looking forward to it. So I'll let you know how it goes, as it goes, and will dread tomorrow's traffic jams just a little bit less.

Footnote: Still using SoundJuicer to rip the tracks and Thunar to rename them. I just love Thunar - handiest little application I've found yet on Linux.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blogging from Idaho

Ok, first of all I just have to mock Idaho's name. Granted we didn't have all the linguistic fun that we have when the state was named, but in today's parlance it's so easy. Observe...

Who da ho??
I da ho!

Case closed.

Second, yup, I'm in Idaho visiting my bro and having a very good time. This particular brother is the one who reminds me that in the world of computer knowledge I know about as much as a fairly bright kindergarten student. The man even has his house wired in a sensible and useful way for wired or wireless inter-tubes connections in each room. He also has what appears to be a very safe setup for browsing using Firefox and something called "Noscript," an add-on that requires authorization of any script use on any web page. Not sure if I could get my beloved to use it, as it does add some inconvenience and complexity to everyday browsing (but not all that much), but it's still pretty cool. Of course, the man's job is system security so if he can't keep his home system safe, we're all really in trouble!

Third, well, that's really all I had to say. Who da ho???

Sadly and eerily true I think

This article, posted by a friend on Facebook (insert shame of facebook use here) really pointed out a lot of what I've been observing and thinking about both for myself and for others. I haven't checked the sources yet (I'm curious about the design of the experiments he discusses - in my own experience even well-meaning reporters can flub thins up when they try to report results of studies) but the basic ideas and observations seem right on, and very discouraging.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Andy Richter Controls The Universe on DVD

Okay, I have no idea how I missed this, but Andy Richter Controls The Universe is out on DVD, and has been for quite some time. If you liked Better Off Ted and somehow you had missed Victor Fresco's earlier show, you should try it. It's for sale on Amazon, and available for rental (although not for instant viewing) on Netflix. Jonathan Slavin, who played Phil in Better Off Ted, is equally hilarious in Andy Richter Controls The Universe. Paget Brewster is great at comedy, and of course, Andy is terrific. It won't satisfy you if you're hankering for more Jay Harrington, but if you're looking for more Fresco humor that makes you feel better about the bizarre things your job requires you to accept on a daily basis, this is for you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I'm not at all sure that this is the Android device I'm looking for, but it's closer than the Streak. The Streak is sexy, but a) it's a Dell, and b) $100 per inch of screen is excessive. HDMI, etc. are nice, but probably not anything I need--I could wait until those things became more common and hopefully less expensive, and then I'll know more about whether/how I'd use the thing and be able to make a better-informed decision on a more expensive product. I'm just looking for an entry-level non-e-ink Android e-reader to compare to my Opus.

I need to see the difference between a resistive and a capacitive screen (I know capacitive is more expensive, so it must be better, right?) and I'd like someone to get into this Cruz Market and tell me what's in there, but honestly, this will be a lot closer to my needs and my budget. We shall see...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Internet Sweet Internet (Oh, Yeah, And Electricity, Too)

Sometime Thursday night, after I got home but before I went to bed, the outlets in my dining room mysteriously stopped working, along with two of the outlets in my kitchen. I checked the breaker box, saw that nothing was tripped, and thought, well, there's the end of my expertise, so I went to bed.

In the morning I turned on my radio, and it just stared at me. Of course, I realized. My wireless router lives in the dining room. So no internet, hence no internet radio. Boo! Which also meant...yes, my phone was out, too, because the only phone jack that's actually hooked up is also in the dining room. Still, you don't want to be late for work because you have no internet. Especially not when work has the internet. So I went to work and totally forgot about it until I got home.

All this weekend I have had no home phone (slightly inconvenient), no electricity in the dining room (marginally inconvenient), and no internet or wireless network (hugely, preposterously inconvenient for something that most ordinary mortals, myself included, did not have anywhere until after I was in college).

Tonight I was on the phone (my cell) with my folks, when my father mentioned that I should check all the outlets that had safety breakers on them. This hadn't occurred to me, since the only one I'd ever noticed was the one my hairdryer is plugged into, upstairs, far away from the dining room, and also clearly operational. Then I went down to the kitchen and realized that in fact there were two of them there, too. Including one that was obviously tripped. I pushed the button and immediately heard a bunch of beeping and chirping behind me as all the electronics got back to work.

Huzzah! Oh, sweet, sweet internet. Let's never part again!

P.S. I think this may need I need a new hot air popcorn popper. Didn't they used to last more than five years before they started sabotaging your home electrical system?

A Faraday Cage For Your Purse

 Purse Organizer with RFID blocking by Corporate Travel Safety - Security Travel Handbags - 

This is both funny and scary.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Down the rabbit hole

A random thought from "Men who stare at goats." The book explores the totally weird crap that the military got into as they were exploring new age and psychic warfare. As I've said, it is scary what sorts of stuff they did try out, not because it's horrifying in and of itself, but because a group of people in positions of power pursued such silly things. Examples include the title, which involved a "goat lab" on an army base in which martial arts psychics and special forces troops literally stared at goats, trying to kill them with their minds, and remote viewing, in which a team of psychics sat in a room, trying to view what was happening at specified strategic targets and write it down as bits of military intelligence. The thing is, these are not conspiracy theories or wild speculations, they are documented facts. Sources are cited, in both cases multiple sources, and the sources are often the people who were doing the staring and viewing.

At the end of the book, though, the author talks about how he got a call from someone who was a source in the book but who said he'd share a bit more information on the condition of anonymity for this final tidbit. The information that was provided, the author was careful to point out, was not verified, and so not trustworthy, and was totally weird. He was told that essentially special forces operatives were being trained to be remote viewers and then being sent into the field, so that they could use their psychic powers in real time to track targets (e.g., to hunt someone down and kill them). Again, weird. That wasn't what caught my attention though.

What caught my attention was how the author was saying that "this sounds totally crazy, and I can't substantiate it, and I wouldn't normally believe it BUT all the stuff I can substantiate is so weird that, well, who knows??" What caught me about this is that I often end up feeling this way at work and out of work. I am generally a fairly level headed and cynical person. When someone tells me about a ghost, a conspiracy, or an honest politician, my usual response is "yeah, sure, show me some data and I'll listen." When someone comes at me with an oddball statement about, well, anything I'm skeptical unless I can either see the sense in it or the proof for it. This approach has served me very well, and in fact part of my job is based on this type of critical thought.

But another part of my job also confronts me with people who have been in situations that are, by their definition, outside the scope of normal experience. They are supposed to be, and are, a little unbelievable. This puts me in weird situations because sometimes I hear REALLY crazy stuff and the critical part of me is crying "oh come ON" but there is still this little niggling doubt. So many of the other unbelievably twisted things I've heard and learned are documented fact, how do I know that this particular one is in fact a bunch of bunk? It's like when you start seeing that really crazy things do happen, you lose a bit of your ability to doubt things outright. And the result, as the title of this post suggests, is that you're down the rabbit hole in a weird and sometimes scary world. It's incredibly frustrating at times.

I don't really have any other deep thoughts to share on this point. I just thought it was interesting to see someone else experiencing this same mental struggle, in an entirely different context. Once you start down that weird path, you can never totally go back. But before you go all 90's TV on me let me just say that no, the truth is not out there :o)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

This also just in...

The National totally rocks. Thanks to my bro and a friend at work who recommended them. Lyrics are just kind of cool, music is good, quite enjoyable. My only question is this: why do all the new bands I'm listening to sound like they were at least partially inspired by The Cure?

French candy tastes weird....

That's really all there is to it. If you happen to go to France, and want to please a friend with a gift of French candy, be aware that a) they use a LOT of butter and b) they don't feel all that compelled to use sugar. The end result is a confection that causes oily skin and pimples in all those standing within 10 feet of the opened candy and tastes, well, not like candy. The coffee flavored caramel was quite nice, but the regular and chocolate varieties tasted just a bit like well oiled shoe leather. Who knew?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I've got a trip coming!

It's not a big trip, it's a small trip. It's a 4 day trip to visit my brother in a, well, not hugely exciting town. But my brother is a hugely cool person, so it all balances out. And when I get back from said trip? Why, dear IR's, I will do NOTHING. Not a thing. For the rest of the week. Ok, ok, I'll go to this training that I kind of am making happen for 2 days, but the rest of the week I'm not going to work, and even when I go to the training, I'm wearing jeans and a t shirt and running shoes and I'm not carrying a pager or checking my work email or anything. Anything at all! It'll be nigh on 12 days of not being my profession, just being a person. I'll be seeing distant family (my bro), close family (wife and kids), maybe tons of TV, and I hope even a movie theater. I'll also be seeing the bottle of many a glass of beer. I. Cannot. Wait.

I don't know if it says something bad about your job when you get so excited about not doing it. I suppose it doesn't. It doesn't say something good about it, but it doesn't have to be bad. Perhaps I just love it so much that I can't stop thinking about it and so it gets a bit overwhelming, so a break will help me to love it even more. Yes, that's it. We'll go with that, then. Here is how my request for leave should look:

Dear job: it's not you, it's me. I just need some space. Some time away to grow, to know myself! You know I love ya, baby. No, I won't do any other activity at all while we're apart. I'll just sit in a room and mope for missing you. I promise. Bye bye.


7 days and counting :o)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Why Are Women So Stupid?

I say this as a stupid woman myself, and I speak, of course, of fashion. Not that I'm a slave to fashion, unless it is the fashion of doing everything possible to wear comfortable shoes and avoid dry cleaning. (A fairly large percentage of my work wardrobe is intended for use either hiking or in the ocean. Anything that I can wash at home, put in the dryer, and then hang up wrinkle-free is a big plus, and I don't particularly care if I'm going to wear it to the office instead of to the ocean. If you take off the advertising patches that are all over the clothing, who's going to call you on it? And who in an IT department gets to hike or see the ocean, anyway?)

But I still fall victim to plenty of choices that are made to appease other people rather than myself. Shoes are my bete noir. I have a lot of shoes. This is because if I were left to my own devices, my entire shoe wardrobe would consist of Chuck Taylors and chunky but whimsical sandals with a sole made by Jeep, and I keep buying these in the hope that someday I will...I don't know. I guess I hope to retire and wear whatever damn shoes I want for the rest of my life. But at work, I don't want to be pigeonholed as a cranky lesbian or singled out for flogging by our obsessively dress-conscious overlord, so I tried to wear heels. I bought very expensive "comfort shoes" with a short heel. They weren't sexy heels, but they ticked all the boxes for office wear. And I wore them for three years.

And I got corns and the beginnings of some uncategorized and freakish bony protrusion for my trouble. When I could no longer expose my feet in public, I knew the time for remedial action had come. I've now been wearing the same pair of flats to work every day for about two months. They are utilitarian and (I hope) inoffensive, but they aren't stylish, and it pains me somewhat. Not as much as the corns, however, which have mercifully disappeared since I stopped wearing the heels of doom. The bony mutation has not really responded to the flat-shoe therapy, so it's probably here for good. But at least I can now wear flip flops in public without shame. (Not at work, of course.) And the iron overlord of dress sense hasn't commented on either the flatness of my shoes or the obscene lack of variety in my footwear, so thank God for that.

My comfort, in my stupidity, is my knowledge that I am not alone. On two recent trips to the city I saw a lot of women who were wearing...okay, I'm going to call them leggings, because that's what these women clearly think they are. But only some of them were leggings. One woman was wearing what I would actually consider tights. I could see ALL of her underwear. It's a look, I suppose.

And if she looked like she was enjoying wearing her foundation garments as outerwear and exposing her undergarments to the world, I would say, well, good for her. But she wasn't. Her hand was CONSTANTLY wandering around back to check on the state of her underwear. She could have saved a prospective repetitive stress injury by merely asking passers-by, who were not only able to see her underwear but all of whom noticed it by virtue of the fact that none of us could look away. At any given moment the transient population of about ten feet of sidewalk were riveted by her underwear, which was hard for any newcomers to the vicinity to ignore.

Even the women wearing legitimate leggings were all concerned about the state of their underwear--in all cases justifiably so. And although it was comforting to note that the thong, previously the hallmark of feminine fashion stupidity, has receded into the background, I was so sorry for these women who felt they had to make constant adjustments for their comfort or decency. I submit that if we allow this trend to continue, we ladies are on the verge of losing the moral high ground from which we command men not to watch football with their hands down their sweatpants.

Why, for the love of all that is holy, WHY? If you're rocking a look, more power to you. Rock on. But if someone somewhere has convinced you to leave the house in something that is rampantly uncomfortable and makes you feel hideously, middle-schoolishly self-conscious, then WHY are you wearing it? You are not rocking said look. You are just suffering hideous discomfort in public.

And it is in this spirit, IR's, that I have ordered three pairs of flats with cushy rubber non-skid soles. Women, I beg of you, reject stupidity and wear whatever the fuck you want.

(You should really try being a steaming hypocrite. You get to blame Cosmo and shop for shoes for the good of womankind. It's awesome.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy 4th of July

For all our American IR's (are there other kinds? Who knows, I think I imagine there are some cool Irish and Brits reading daily as well, just dying to hear what Shifter and Katy have to say), Happy 4th of July. It's probably clear from some of the content here that I don't always approve of what happens in the ol' US of A, or all that it does outside its borders. And that may be an understatement. But it's difficult to judge a country. A country is so huge, embodies so many ideas, hopes, ideals, dreams, goals and so forth, many, many of which are even contradictory, that it seems impossible to boil it all down into "USA good" or "USA bad."

That being said, there are so many awesome things about USA, and so much that I as an individual and my family gain by being part of it, that I have to be grateful for it. And also that I have to be hopeful that it can live up to its potential so much more than it seems to today.

I also think that this country, or any group of people, is at its best when people are helping each other. Quite often the 4th is seen as a time to honor veterans and military service members. Again, I so often hate what soldiers have to do, what we have them do. And I work with enough of them to know that they're not all poster heroes, just as they're not all sadistic and evil villains. But military service can be one way that people in a society are caring for each other, in some cases giving their lives for each other. While I may hate that this is ever needed, and hate some of what is done in the name of this country, I really have to honor that service.

I know this is an ambivalent way of saying Happy 4th. But I suppose that's the way I am, and also what I think is necessary. Loving something does not mean you ignore its faults, or pretend they don't exist or can never exist. Being thankful for something you are a part of does not absolve you of the responsibility to think about what it is and what it does. These are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, I think they are wholly complementary ideas. And one of the things that in theory makes this such a great country is that we are all a part of it, of what it does and what it is, and so we are all obliged to think about things, to look at them.

So, all that being said, again, Happy Independence Day.